You know that breaking the law has consequences. From jail time, to fines, to community service, there are lots of ways that an arrest, followed by a conviction, can have serious repercussions that will affect the rest of your life. Depending on the crime’s classification—misdemeanor or felony—the consequences may vary. Even for what you might consider a minor offense like marijuana possession, or driving while your license is invalid with a prior conviction, the fallout from such a conviction may cause serious change in the way that you live your life on a day-to-day basis, even years after the crime occurred.
While most people think of jail time when they think of consequences for committing a crime, that actually only accounts for one of many potential consequences that could occur. When you have a criminal record, a lot of things change, often including your health insurance status, employability, and more. It’s important to be aware of all of these collateral consequences for criminal activity—and the bottom line is that it’s not just jail time you have to worry about.
Here are a few of the collateral consequences that can result from conviction in the case of criminal behavior:
If you are convicted of multiple traffic offenses within a year, you could be in danger of losing your driver’s license. In the state of Texas, any driver who is convicted of four or more moving traffic violations within a 12-month period, or seven or more moving traffic violations within a 24-month period may have their license suspended or revoked. You may be able to request a hearing to reinstate your license, but this must be done within 20 days of being notified of your suspension. Also, if you happen to be caught driving while your license is suspended, the first offense is a Class C Misdemeanor, while any subsequent offense is a Class B Misdemeanor.
If you are a lawful permanent resident in the United States, here on a student or work visa, or any other lawful immigration status, a criminal conviction can result in serious consequences for your immigration status, even if it is just a misdemeanor. The seriousness of these consequences will depend on the crime, as an aggravated offense will be handled differently than a non-aggravated offense, and a crime against moral turpitude (theft for instance) is different than simple assault. Depending upon the nature of the offense, and if you have any other convictions, the range of adverse immigration actions can range from non-renewal of your visa, non-admission to the U.S., deportation, or preventing you from obtaining lawful permanent resident status. Please note, just because you are allowed to leave the U.S. on a trip does not mean that you will be allowed back in. Generally speaking, Immigration and Customs Enforcement will not indicate you are ineligible to re-enter the U.S. when you leave. It is up to you to figure this information out ahead of time.
As a veteran, if you are convicted of a crime, you may lose some benefits depending on the situation and type of crime you were convicted of, in addition to the sentence served. In general, you will still be eligible for retired military pay, VA disability compensation, or other military pensions, unless you are charged with any type of criminal disloyalty to the united states. Your Veteran’s (VA) benefits may be reduced—not removed—if you are convicted and imprisoned for a crime, and only if you are imprisoned. For more information, visit the VA website.
If you are convicted of a crime while a college student, your school will have policies in place determining whether this is grounds for suspension or expulsion. Additionally, if you have sought federal financial aid, you may no longer be eligible depending on the offense. If you have been convicted of a drug-related offense prior to application, your application may be rejected unless you complete an approved drug rehabilitation program. If you commit a drug-related offense while receiving federal aid, you may become ineligible and actually have to return any aid you received while ineligible.
A criminal record of any type could impact your eligibility for employment both now and in the future. Your current employer may seek termination after your conviction, depending on the crime—yes, it is technically legal in at-will employment states to fire for a felony conviction. In the future, many employers require background checks, and even if it has been many years since your conviction, you could miss out on a job promotion or opportunity because of your criminal record. While records can be expunged, and that may improve your employment opportunities or improve any scenario where a background check would be conducted, this is not available in all cases.
This is a short list of some of the areas of your life that could be impacted by arrest, conviction, and/or a criminal record. It’s not just jail time that you have to worry about, and you won’t be able to truly resume your life as normal once you’ve served your sentence, whatever that may be. That criminal record will follow you the rest of your life. Of course, the best way to avoid this is to stay on the right side of the law in the first place—but if you’ve been arrested, it’s not too late.